I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner—after all, the Paper of Record has been reporting on the perhaps inevitable confluence of fashion and the rise of cycling (don't call it a trend) for the past couple years, including a particularly telling September 2009 article entitled "Whose Bike Are You Wearing?" In other words, as much as couture has picked up on the growing popularity of biking, we've seen far less of the opposite.
Enter Carson Leh's beautifully brogued bicycle saddles, which have far more in common with handmade dress shoes than, say, a $20,000 Hublot × BMC. Rather, they hearken back to the signature details of oxfords and derbys, a logical intersection of Leh's obsession with vintage footwear and his passion for cycling. Alden Seats is the result, and his inaugural collection of saddles features wingtip-worthy patterns and faux-quilting for a specific contingent of style-conscious cyclists. (As a member of that target audience, I was interested to learn that the now-ornamental perforations originally served as a drainage system for leather shoes intended for wet terrain.)
Like Melbourne's Busyman Bicycles, Leh started out by refurbishing existing saddles with custom patterns. Thus, Alden seats are a "line of ready-to-ride leather covered seats that maintain and improve the same hand made quality and style of my current custom seats."
There will be three seat shapes to start, with four leather colors and nine distinct designs. Styles will include a retro road and track seat, a Dutch-style comfort seat and a slim Pivotal style BMX and MTB seat. These three styles cover the main markets of cycling. Alden would primarily be centered around the rapidly growing community of cyclists purchasing lightweight Dutch-style city bikes and custom bike builders of road and track bikes.
Video after the click...
If the aesthetic comes at the expense of additional weight, I can attest to the fact that my lightweight racing saddle is currently on its last legs: the ultrathin leather is peeling by the day. Leh, for his part, is committed to conscientious business practices:
In order to maintain quality and the unique craftsman character of the brand. Every seat we make will be finished in California, our hides will be embroidered, laser cut and upholstered there. Although our goal is to have a entirely USA made product, almost all seat manufacturing occurs in China and Taiwan, so seat bases will be purchased from those sources and all leather work will be completed in California.
Leather will be sourced from USA based tanneries that have the best environmental record and use the newest non toxic tanning processes. The ultimate goal is to always strive to create the most environmentally friendly product... Alden's goal will also eventually feature designs using high quality leather alternatives like waxed hemp, glazed cotton and recycled Ultra-suede.
As with Red Wing Boots, Leh is offering a "take back and reupholstering service for all our products. This means you can send back your seat and for a fee we re-upholster it." (For the record, the name of the brand is derived not from his Norcal counterparts at Alden Shoe Company but Leh's middle name.)
Thus, like a high-quality pair of leather shoes or boots, Alden seats are intended to last a lifetime and take on a hard-earned patina that reflects as much. There's at least one other storied saddle company that offers similar products; Leh differentiates his goods by forgoing the copper rivets for meticulous stitching, and his handmade saddles will certainly stand out—for better or for worse—among other bicycles. Perhaps he should incorporate a security mechanism to deter theft...
It's a perfect complement to your Walnut Studio accessories... now to track down some of those "vintage Fujita lace-up grips":